Past winners

2019

Golden Child (Penguin Randomhouse)

Claire Adam

Book cover for 'Golden Child' by Claire AdamRural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters–leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

‘In fluid and uncluttered prose, Golden Child weaves an enveloping portrait of an insular social order in which the claustrophobic support of family and neighbors coexists with an omnipresent threat from the same corners.’ – The New York Times Book Review

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2018

We That Are Young (Galley Beggar Press)

Preti Taneja

Book cover for 'We That Are Young'When Jivan Singh returns to his childhood home after a long absence, it’s only to witness the unexpected resignation of Devraj, the founding father of the Company, a vast corporation at the heart of Indian life. On the same day, Devraj’s youngest daughter Sita absconds – refusing to submit to marriage. Her older sisters Radha and Gargi are handed their father’s company…

So begins a vicious struggle for power, ranging from the luxury hotels of New Delhi and Amritsar, the palaces and slums of Napurthala, to the beautiful, broken city of Srinagar, Kashmir.

We That Are Young is a modern-day King Lear that bursts with energy and fierce, beautifully measured rage. It presents a startling insight into modern India, the rise of religious nationalism, the clash of youth and age, the intensity of life (and the ever-present spectre of death) in one of the world’s fastest growing economies. It is the tragedy of our times – for all time.

‘Revelatory… Urgent and irresistible… One of the most exquisite and original novels of the year.’ – The Sunday Times

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2017

Golden Hill (Faber)

Francis Spufford

Book cover for 'Golden Hill'New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, 1746. One rainy evening, a charming and handsome young stranger fresh off the boat from England pitches up to a counting house on Golden Hill Street, with a suspicious yet compelling proposition — he has an order for a thousand pounds in his pocket that he wishes to cash. But can he be trusted? This is New York in its infancy, a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love, and find a world of trouble . . .

‘Golden Hill is a novel of gloriously capacious humanity, thick-woven with life in all its oddness and familiarity, a novel of such joy it leaves you beaming, and such seriousness that it asks to be read again and again … this novel is verifiable gold.’ – Alexandra Harris, Sunday Telegraph

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2016

The Glorious Heresies (John Murray)

Lisa McInerney

Book cover for 'The Glorious Heresies'One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

‘The Glorious Heresies heralds the arrival of a glorious, foul-mouthed, fizzing new talent’ – Sunday Times

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2015

Our Endless Numbered Days (Penguin)

Claire Fuller

Book cover for 'Our Endless Numbered Days'1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother’s grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

‘Fuller handles the tension masterfully in this grown-up thriller of a fairytale, full of clues, questions and intrigue.’ – The Times

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2014

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (Faber)

Eimear McBride

Book cover for 'A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing'Eimear McBride’s award-winning debut novel tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. It is a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist. To read A Girl is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world at first hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

‘Eimear McBride is that old fashioned thing, a genius, in that she writes truth-spilling, uncompromising and brilliant prose.’ – Anne Enright, Guardian

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2013

The Marlowe Papers (Sceptre)

Ros Barber

Book cover for 'The Marlowe Papers'On May 30th, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now let Christopher Marlowe tell you the truth: that his ‘death’ was an elaborate ruse to avoid his being hanged for heresy; that he was spirited across the channel to live on in lonely exile, longing for his true love and pining for the damp streets of London; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colourless man from Stratford — one William Shakespeare.

With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this extraordinary novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, mercurial and not altogether trustworthy. The son of a cobbler who rose so far in Elizabethan society that he counted nobles among his friends and patrons, a spy in the Queen’s service, a fickle lover and a declared religious sceptic, he was always courting trouble. When it caught up with him, he was lucky to have connections powerful enough to help him escape.

Memoir, love letter, settling of accounts and a cry for recognition as the creator of some of the most sublime works in the English language, this is Christopher Marlowe’s testament — and a tour de force by an award-winning poet: provocative, persuasive and enthralling.

‘Ros Barber has told a great story, in a fascinating way, so fascinating that she had someone like me gripped to the very end. This really is a joy to read and a true work of art.’ – Benjamin Zephaniah

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2012

The Land of Decoration (Chatto and Windus)

Grace McCleen

Book cover for 'The Land of Decoration;In Grace McCleen’s harrowing, powerful debut, she introduces an unforgettable heroine in ten-year-old Judith McPherson, a young believer who sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith. Persecuted at school for her beliefs and struggling with her distant, devout father at home, young Judith finds solace and connection in a model in miniature of the Promised Land that she has constructed in her room from collected discarded scraps—the Land of Decoration. Where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility and divinity in even the strangest traces left behind. As ominous forces disrupt the peace in her and Father’s modest lives—a strike threatens her father’s factory job, and the taunting at school slips into dangerous territory—Judith makes a miracle in the Land of Decoration that solidifies her blossoming convictions. She is God’s chosen instrument. But the heady consequences of her newfound power are difficult to control and may threaten the very foundations of her world.

‘A tremendously affecting novel, skilfully and arrestingly written, and one that packs a big emotional punch’ – The Sunday Times

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2011

Saraswati Park (Fourth Estate)

Anjali Joseph

Book cover for 'Saraswati Park'Famous for its electric chaos, the city of Bombay also accommodates pockets of calm. In one such space works Mohan, a contemplative man who has spent his life observing people from his seat as a letter-writer outside the main post office. But Mohan’s lack of engagement with the world has caused a thawing of his marriage. At this delicate moment Mohan – and his wife, Lakshmi – are joined at their home in Saraswati Park by their nephew, Ashish, a sexually uncertain 19-year-old who has to repeat his final year in college.

As the novel unfolds, the lives of each of the three characters are thrown into relief by the comical frustrations of family life: annoying relatives, unspoken yearnings and unheard grievances. When Lakshmi loses her only brother, she leaves Bombay for a relative’s home to mourn not only the death of a sibling but also the vital force of her marriage. Ashish, meanwhile, embarks on an affair with a much richer boy in his college and, not long afterwards, succumbs to the overtures of his English tutor.

As Mohan scribbles away in the margins of the sort of books he secretly hopes to write one day, he worries about whether his wife will return, what will become of Ashish, and if he himself will ever find his own voice to write from the margins about the centre of which he will never be a part.

‘Joseph contrasts the inner and outer lives of her characters, and the uneasy friction between new and old cultures, with all the wit and delicacy of a latter-day Mrs Gaskell’ – The Times

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2010

The Girl with Glass Feet (Atlantic Books)

Ali Shaw

Book cover for 'The Girl with Glass Feet'A mysterious metamorphosis has taken hold of Ida MacLaird – she is slowly turning into glass. Fragile and determined to find a cure, she returns to the strange, enchanted island where she believes the transformation began, in search of reclusive Henry Fuwa, the one man who might just be able to help…

Instead she meets Midas Crook, and another transformation begins: as Midas helps Ida come to terms with her condition, they fall in love. What they need most is time – and time is slipping away fast.

‘Shaw has worked the great tradition of European fairy tales and come up with an ingenious story… A magical fable of fate and resignation.’ – Guardian

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2009

Blackmoor (Simon & Schuster)

Edward Hogan

Book cover for 'Blackmoor'Beth is an albino, half blind, and given to looking at the world out of the corner of her eye. Her neighbours in the Derbyshire town of Blackmoor have always thought she was ‘touched’, and when a series of bizarre happenings shake the very foundations of the village, they are confirmed in their opinion that Beth is an ill omen. The neighbours say that Beth eats dirt from the flowerbeds, and that smoke rises from her lawn. By the end of the year, she is dead.

‘This novel … has confidence, mystery and an entrancing sense of itself.’ – Independent on Sunday

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2008 

Gifted (Viking)

Nikita Lalwani

Book cover for 'Gifted'Rumi Vasi is 10 years, 2 months, 13 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 6 seconds old. She’s figured that the likelihood of her walking home from school with the boy she likes, John Kemble, is 0.2142, a probability severely reduced by the lacy dress and thick woolen tights her father, and Indian émigré, forces her to wear. Rumi is a gifted child, and her father, Mahesh, believes that strict discipline is the key to nurturing her genius if the family has any hope of making its mark on its adoptive country.

Four years later, a teenage Rumi is at the center of an intense campaign by her parents to make her the youngest student ever to attend Oxford University, an effort that requires an unrelenting routine of study. Yet Rumi is growing up like any other normal teen: her mind often drifts to potent distractions . . . from music to love.

Rumi’s parents want nothing other than to give Rumi an exceptional life. As her father outlines ever more regimented study schedules, her mother longs for India and forcefully reminds Rumi of her roots. In the end, the intense expectations of a family with everything to prove will be a combustible ingredient as an intelligent but naive girl is thrust into the adult world before she has time to grow up.

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